Correct Gap Critical to Rotation Speed

Maintaining the correct gap between the sensor and the rotor is critical to correctly measuring turbine rotor speed. Setting the gap can be problematic if the correct gap is unknown or if it cannot be accessed with a feeler gauge.

First a little background on why the sensor gap is critical: The sensor, or “pickup”, is mounted perpendicular to the shaft, facing a toothed gear fixed to the rotor. Pickups can be either “active” or “passive” (see below). In either case, the pickup counts the teeth by sensing the difference in height between the tip of the tooth and the valley between the tooth. If the sensor is too close, it can’t reliably distinguish between the tip and the valley. If it is too far away, it can’t reliably register the tip. The correct gap will register a voltage differential which can be counted. The electronic circuits determine shaft rotation speed by dividing the number of teeth on the gear into how fast the voltage changes over a period of time.

Always use the manufacturer’s specification data to determine the correct gap spacing for the pickup. If the specification is not available, an initial setting of 0.025″ (0.64 mm) will work in most cases. Once the unit is running, the controls engineer can determine if the output voltage or signal level is sufficient for the type of control used.

Sometimes the pickup gap cannot be accessed with a feeler gauge. If so, an accurate setting can be obtained with a little math and a technique called “counting the flats”. The two most often found pickup sizes are the 5/8″ – 18 and the 3/4″ – 20 thread sizes. If you do the math, the 18 threads per inch (TPI) device will move 1 inch in the mounting hole if it is rotated 18 times. Looking at it the other way, it will move in the hole 0.055 inches if it is rotated one time. Breaking it down further, it will move 0.009″ if it is rotated one “flat” of the hexagonal shaped body or hex nut. In the case of the larger 3/4″ inch device, it will move 0.050″ per one rotation and 0.008″ per “flat”.

To “count the flats”, line up the tooth of the gear as close as possible to the center of the mounting hole until it looks like the picture above. Once the gear tooth is aligned with the center of the hole, screw the pickup down BY HAND until the face of the pickup gently contacts the tooth. Set the gap by unscrewing the pickup while counting the flats from a fixed reference point (can even be a line made by a Sharpie pen). For a 0.025″ gap unscrew it by 2 ¾ flats. The math would be 0.025″ (gap) / 0.009″ (movement per flat) = 2.77 flats or approximately 2 ¾ flats. For the larger pickup size that would be 0.025″ / 0.008″ = 3.1 flats or just tad over three full flats. Tighten up the locknut and you’re done!

There are many different types of pickups out in use today but the most common types used on steam and gas turbines are the “passive” type (sometimes called inactive pickups) and the “active” type. They look very similar but operate quite differently. Very simply, the typical magnetic or “passive” pickup is simply a coil of fine wire wrapped around a magnetized iron core that self generates a voltage. When the tooth of a gear passes in front of the iron core, a small voltage is generated and when the valley between the teeth passes the iron core, the voltage falls off. The “active” type pickup receives power from an outside source instead of self generating it. There is a small transmitter and receiver inside of the device that sends out a signal from the end of the pickup. When a gear tooth passes this signal, it changes the characteristic of the signal that is reflected back to the receiver. The internal electronics then interpret this and send out a voltage pulse. Although the passive sensor generates a sine wave and the active sensor generates a square wave, both sensors count cycles over time, which represents teeth rotation speed.

Please contact Mr. Turbine® for answers to any issue with Steam or Combustion Turbine Controls, or Generator and Exciter Controls for any motive power system.

Heat Stress

 It’s that time of year again – summertime – hot and unbearable weather. This year is starting off in pretty much the same pattern as years gone by. All over the U.S we are seeing extremely high heat temperatures, especially in the western portion where temperatures are reaching an average of 112° to 128° degrees. Many people are exposed to heat on some jobs, outdoors, or in hot indoor environments. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness.

Why is heat a hazard to workers?

When a person works in a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature. It does this mainly through circulating blood to the skin and through sweating.

When the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, cooling of the body becomes more difficult. Blood circulated to the skin cannot lose its heat. Sweating then becomes the main way the body cools off. But sweating is effective only if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation and if the fluids and salts that are lost are adequately replaced.

If the body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate increases. As the body continues to store heat, the person begins to lose concentration and has difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and often loses the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down.

Excessive exposure to heat can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.

Exposure to heat can also increase the risk of injuries because of sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness, and burns from hot surfaces or steam.

How can heat-related illness be prevented?

Heat-related illnesses can be prevented. Important ways to reduce heat exposure and the risk of heat-related illness include engineering controls, such as air conditioning and ventilation, that make the work environment cooler, and work practices such as work/rest cycles, drinking water often, and providing an opportunity for workers to build up a level of tolerance to working in the heat. Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Also, it’s important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do – acting quickly can save lives!
Remember, refrain from alcohol intake the night prior and drink plenty of fluids during the shift.